Friday, October 24, 2014

The Armchair Traveller Passing Through The Loire

The more I drink Loire reds and whites, the more I want to soak in everything this wonderful place has to offer.

Huet, Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu, Demi Sec, 2009

This is superb, with an  almost outlandishly (and unexpectedly, I might add) funky nose that is equally toasty and mineral-laden, appropriately backed up by deep, pure apricot fruit. Good traits all, echoed on palate. I know the stuff can age, but this is so great right now, I think the only reason to wait is for further complexity to develop on the palate to match that already in place in the aromatics. (Sept. 27, 2014)

Giaconda, 170 NIS, a great value.

Michel Redde, Pouilly-Fumé , Les Champs des Billon, 2011

Every time I drink a Redde, I think, "wow, who would've thought Sauvignon Blanc could be so good!" This is still the most backward of the Redde wines imported to Israel, but there is already a lot of limey, smoky, rocky depth and a saline finish, that, if you have any love at all for classic French wines, will bewitch you within a few minutes. Any well made wine can keep, that is stay alive, for a few years, the question is will time actually evolve it? With Redde in general, and this wine specifically, I think there are stories waiting to be told. (Oct. 10, 2014)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Yannic Amirault, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Le Mine, 2009

Yes! I finally located this misplaced bottle, this misplaced lovely bottle. Oh, it is a lovely drop indeed, and how highly you rate it will depend on how much you actually prize drinkability and taste, as opposed to, uh, all the other things tasters score wines for. With decently complex scents and flavors, raspberries laced laced with rust and tobacco leaves, this feels, amazingly enough (this being the entry level Saint-Nicolas in the Amirault portfolio), as though it needs more time. (Oct. 16, 2014)

About 20 GBP.

Chateau du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Fours a Chaux, 2010

Classic. An appetizing nose with black fruit, violets and lead pencil. The palate is fruity, soft and friendly yet chewy and savory. I really should have bought more, as it is delightfully fresh and a great value, drinking well now with an upside of a few years. (Oct. 20, 2014)

Fat Guy, 140 NIS.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Double Birthday Bash (Oct. 2, 2014)

Pierre Gimmonet, Special Club, 2002

Champagne=love. Gimmonet Special Club=love at first sight, and then forever. This is very refined, with a nose probably still as fresh as when it was first disgorged, with minerals and brioche, an effect carried over on the palate. The essence of elegance.

Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Morstein, Grosses Gewächs, 2002

My notes show I always like the Wittmann GG's, even if I wouldn't call it mad, gushing love. This has a fine melange of petrol, dill, apples and slate, as well as a great sense of focus and a light hint of sweetness on the lovely complex finish.

Our appetite for German Riesling suitably whetted by the dry rendition, we moved on to a flight of Auslese by two masters.

J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 1999

The nose displays what most would expect from a mature Auslese, i.e., petrol a little smoke. Beyond that and the requisite apples and slate is a hint of mint. I wasn't wowed by either, as both are less complex than I'd have thought, but of the two, this is the livelier bottle. Livelier than the Brucke but both are less complex than I'd have thought. Although I think the donnhoff is slightly more complex.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhauser Brücke, Riesling Auslese, 2001

While more complex than the Prum, this comes off a little tired - actually, way more tired than I'd have thought a 2001 Donnhoff Auslese had any right to be. Just blame it on the dry cork. An interesting nose, though, with tea, minerals and a funk I can't quite elucidate. 

Next up, two Barolos that strayed so far from the reputation of their maker I could hardly even write up a note. .

Paolo Scavino, Barolo, Cannubi, 2000

Black fruit, tar.

Paolo Scavino Barolo, Bric del Fiasc, 2000

A little more reticent.

Both were deep in the ripe end of the classical idiom, with a forced extraction not that palatable to me. In short, a minor fiasco

Can't beat a great Bordeaux vintage for blowing your blues away. Not only did this flight throw the dull, foursquare impression made by the Barolos into even greater relief, it was a short seminar on the stylistic differences between Pauillac and Margaux.

Chateau Rauzan-Segla, Margaux 2me Cru, 2000

A very classic claret, with blackcurrants, cedar and earth melded with typical Margaux elegance. Not only is it more drinkable than the Lynch Bages, its trappings are much more obvious.

Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000

This is still tannic, needing more time in glass to show the grand power of Pauillac in its facade of tobacco, coffee and a hint of meat. Both the Lynch Bages and the Rauzan-Segla have wonderful acidity and still need 5-10 years to peak.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Dombprobst, Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel AP#11, 2005

At first sniff and sip, a cut above the other Rieslings. Deeper and purer, with enervating acidity. It is, however, at that monolithic stage in a great Riesling's revolution that you just yearn for a time machine.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2014)

Huet usually walks away with the house wine WOM medal
 Serafin Pere et Fils, Bourgogne, 2008

Sniff. Sip. Drink. Definitely the Gevrey landscape: this is animalistic, pungently earthy and true to the appellation idiom; rusty, savory, saline, almost salty, with village wine level heft (like many fine growers, this is de-classified Villages), the only drawback is tannins that grow very dry after an hour. 2008 may well be the most underrated Burgundy vintage of the century. (Sept. 4, 2014)

Bourgogne Brown, 155 NIS.

Telmo Rodríguez, Gaba do Xil,Valdeorras, Godello, 2012

Telmo Rodríguez is a sort of wandering winemaker, exploring backwoods vineyards harboring forgotten varieties, utilizing old school techniques. Or that's the way the story goes. Of the wines imported to Israel, Godello is the only grape that could be said to be half forgotten, although it has been going through a renaissance in recent years. And this is hardly an old school wine, even if there is nothing overtly modern about it. It is clean, with just enough haphazard dirt thrown in for interest, it obviously displays the effects of barrel regime, but the oak is very integrated. I get citrus fruit, a Chassagne-like combination of dry grass and spicy pears, a touch of Gruneresque green herbs, a round mouth feel with no annoying flab, and a spicy finish. Charming and tasty, with a modicum of depth and complexity, but at the end of the day, it doesn't feel like a revelation. So I'm glad Rodriguez is making wines like this, I just don't have a great urge to thank him personally for introducing me to Valdeorras or Godello. (Sept. 7, 2014)

Wine Route, 95 NIS.

However, the Mencia, 2012, which is the red sibling sold for the exact same price, is a wine I'd thank the guy for. It's a joyous, juicy wine, reminding me of a Loire Cab with its light, earthy, red fruit with suggestions of smoke and brine. No excessive complexity, length or depth here, but really tasty and bags of fun. Oddly, although I like it more than the white, I do think 70 NIS would be a more appropriate price. I wouldn't really consider going out for more of the Godello, but the Mencia would make a good case for a repeat purchase, were it priced lower. (Sept. 10, 2014)

Alain Graillot, Saint Joseph, 2011

Graillot is back in Israel, with a 30% price increase, alas. The last vintage for the Saint Joseph was 2007, so we missed the great 2010 vintage here in Israel. I love the way this exhibits the Graillot style: ripe, languid fruit livened up by very juicy acidity, creating a savory, crunchy effect. Not only that, it has that textbook Saint Joseph black pepper and raw meat signature. As well, the soft tannins as usual make for a velvety mouth feel and early drinkability. So yeah, too expensive right now, from a historic perspective, but still a damn fine drink at a price competitive with, these days, a Cru Bourgeois or a generic Barbaresco.Which leads me to two conclusion: prices are crazy in general and we don't get enough Saint Josephs in Israel. I have also drawn a third conclusion. As much as I've always admired Graillot, this is actually at least a small step up from the 2007 (even though I sense 2007 is rated higher in the North Rhone), and I suspect will age longer. (Sept. 12, 2014)

Wine Route, 210 NIS.

Delamotte, Champagne, Cote de Blancs, Brut, n.v

Given my current state of infatuation with Champagne, every tasting note flirts with reiteration and repetition. I really liked this last month, and if you liked last month's note, you can just refer to it, and I'd have you know this bottle shows more roasted nuts, brioche and mushrooms than the previous one. (Sept. 13, 2014)

Fat Guy, about 270 NIS.

Alain Burguet, Bourgogne, Les Pinces Vin", 2011

All the "Bourgognes" in the Bourgogne Crown catalog are young vines or declassified Village crus, and this is arguably the best sample. It shows the more earthy/floral side of Gevrey,with only a touch of hide. It's quite refined and cool, and easy to drink. You could debate the merits of this in terms of depth or complexity, if you think you actually need to do that for a declassified Village wine, but you would not be able to deny how tasty it is. (Sept. 14, 2014)

170 NIS.

Domaine Gobelsburg, Neiderosterreich Riesling, 2012

The world is full of tasty working horse wines. The thing, with a house as excellent as Gobelsburg, even the estate wine is a filigree working horse.This is a simple thing that deftly balances fruit and salinity. (Sept. 17, 2014)

Fat Guy, 89 NIS.

Olivier Guyot, Bourgogne, 2010

A declassified Marsannay, and likely one of the better values in Daniel Lifshitz' catalog. Earthy red fruit, tasty, and clean (as in no oak). (Sept. 19, 2014)

Bourgogne Crown, 100 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kallstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese trocken, 2007

Like many K-R bottles over the years, this is a dud. There an interesting, mineral-laden, sweet-sour personality at play here, but it just doesn't have the thrilling vividness of a star Riesling. I've been drinking the dude's wines for years and it's been a downwards curve. You know how a great Riesling captures fire and ice, the warmth of summer and the silence of snowfall? This is like being dragged along by your mother on a rainy, boring Sunday to buy a coat, and you hope that the shopping center where the coat store is will at least have a drugstore with a comic book stand. Instead, all it has is another coat warehouse. And it's Sunday, so all you have to look forward to is going back to school on Monday.

Sorry about that, you just got a glimpse into my childhood in Long Island.

Of course, there's always the chance I'm just not getting it and the wine just needs to open. (Sept. 22, 2014)

Giaconda, 160 NIS is what I paid for it about 5 years ago, now the asking price is 200 NIS for club members.

But let's move right along, folks. I love it when a white Burgundy gets it right.

Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2008

This yells Chablis Grand Cru from the first sniff and sip, from the funky iodine and sea shells on the nose, to the long, complex saline and sour finish. Excellent and fresh. (Sept. 23, 2014)

Wine Route, 300-350 NIS (I paid less, but there you are, quality costs money).

Some notes from a Rosh Hashana dinner (Sept. 25, 2014):

The Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2007 was all I expect and want from a Classic Tuscan: mellow red fruit, savory, mildly sour, full of earth and chives.

The Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, 2012 played more like a regular Kabinett, all granny apples and slate. It had so much of the same electrical vivacity of the amazing 2012 Kabinett that I had to check that I hadn't opened the wrong bottle. And the acidity blazes away straight through to the core of something important I can't put my finger on - which is a trick common to all great Mosels.

Earlier, the Ben-Shoshan, Ovdat, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 seemed, to me, to display typical desert character, sour red fruit and earth. I do think, though, that the bitter tannins display wine-making shakiness.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kallstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese trocken, 2004

Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me. I figured if I have a bunch of duds in the fridge, I might as well find out now for sure and free up the space. On to the backup bottle.

Huet, Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu, Demi Sec, 2009

This is superb, with almost outlandishly (and unexpectedly, I might add) funky nose that is equally toasty and mineral-laden, appropriately backed up by deep, pure apricot fruit. Good traits all, echoed on palate. I know the stuff can age, but this is great right now, I think the only reason to wait is for further complexity to develop on the palate to match that already in place in the aromatics. (Sept. 27, 2014)

Giaconda, 170 NIS, a great value.

Andre et Mireille (now Stephane) Tissot, Cremant du Jura, Blanc de Blanc Cleve en Fue, n.v.

What I've learned from this second encounter (read about the first one here) is to better appreciate where it approaches and swerves from the Champagne paradigm. Unfortunately, that bit of wisdom is not so easy to articulate. But I'll try. The nose is lovely and exotic and that signature of salty cashews  and vegetable broth is simply delectable, but there's a funk to it that I haven't encountered in a Champagne BdB, only when some Pinot is tossed into the blend. Then, the palate, while quite tasty and refreshing, is lighter than the original, playing Macon to Champagne's Cote d'Or. (Sept. 29, 2014)

Giaconda, 165 NIS.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Halutzim 3 - Have I Told You Lately That I Love you? (Sept. 18, 2014)

It was a late, impromptu birthday party, about two months after the fact. Some of the wines shone, some didn't, and some were just educational. But when the chef in your favorite eating ground not only kicks ass but puts together a playlist that includes Bird and Sun Studios period Elvis, you know the evening will be fun!

The whites...

Rene Geoffroy, Premier Cru Brut, Empreinte, 2006

The descriptors number brioche, nuts, oranges, minerals. Most of the interest is on the nose, as the palate starts out sweet-ish, probably approaching the upper boundaries of the sugar levels allowed in a brut. I can understand why this is one of the less famous names in the Terry Theise catalog, but I'm not sorry to have picked this up in the US; it is tasty and decently complex, just doesn't make you want to sit back and savor every sip for hours.

R. Lopez de Heredia, Tondonia, Gran Reserva, Blanco, 1991

We all agreed that drinking a live, twenty-three year old white wine is hardly a common experience. And it is very much alive. The fruit is still lively, and while the oak is obvious, it is very integrated and the package is elegantly embellished by sulphur, minerals and brine. As for me, while I did enjoy it, this bottle suffered by comparison to a spectacular bottle I drank two years ago.

Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fume, Silex, 2006

I really want to be careful about criticizing a late legend, but while it's impressive to drink an eight year old Sauvignon Blanc, there is nothing too special about the place this quite expensive wine wound up in. The nose is quite mineral laden, taking time to divulge anything approaching exceptional interest, while the palate makes a ripe, sweet impression and takes time to resolve and display the dry dynamics I look for in a Loire Sauvignon Blanc. Honestly, for 400 NIS or whatever this costs these days, I'm better off seeking my thrills with Redde at half the price and twice the excitement.

... and the reds
Jacques Fredric Mugnier, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Marchelle, 2007

I've enjoyed quite a few Marchelles over the years, but this specific bottle carries enough brett to obscure the Bourgogne character, even though it would work better with other grapes. So while it tastes good, it could have been a Saint Joseph for all purposes.

Francois Villard, Saint Joseph, Mairlant, 2010

Now this is bona fide Saint Joseph. Here the Brett works with the black pepper and complements the fruit. The local market for North Rhone has plenty of room for growth, importers!

Niepoort, Duoro, Batuta, 2005

This is a nice wine, but quite modern and top heavy, if you know what I mean - but spicy, lively and savory, for all that.